How to DIY a Twig Christmas Tree

I’ve been swooning over a twig Christmas tree for a couple years now.  In all fairness, I think it’s actually more adequately called a driftwood tree…but tomato tomata.

Today I’m going to share with you how how you can DIY your very own Twig Christmas Tree for less than $5 in materials.

How we remade the Twig Tree

First, here is the original inspiration.  I saw this photo probably a hundred times on Pinterest.  I fell in love.
christmas tree

(I’d love to give proper credit to whoever made this beauty but I’m unable to find the original source)

Isn’t it GORGEOUS!!!  I mean really.  I LOVE it!!

Why this kind of tree for Christmas?

Last year was our first Christmas in a home after full-time RVing, we were sparse on the Christmas decorations!  Meaning, we had Christmas stockings – that is it.  In the past, artificial trees have been our tree of choice because of how easy cleanup is with them.

We decided to keep our spending to a minimum last year…

Enter our very own Twig Christmas Tree.

This beauty was so easy to make, I’m kicking myself for not making one while we lived in an RV!

So here is how we did it!

How to DIY a Twig Christmas Tree

Materials:
  • branches
  • jute string or twine
  • staple gun and staples
  • two angle aids:  scrap wood, string, or tape measurer long enough to lay along the side.
  • saw (circular or scroll)
Directions:
  1. Find the stud on the wall you plan to hang your twig tree.  Measure to figure out what the optimal width your tree should be.
  2. Gather twigs that are a similar diameter and are fairly straight.
  3. Lie them out on the ground to get them to the desired graduated pattern. (See that stump at the bottom? We were winging it and ended up NOT using it so let’s just pretend it’s not there.)twig tree how to
  4. Using one of your angle aids, lie the aid on the side of your “tree” to get the desired angle of  your tree.twig tree ~ lining up angels
  5. Move the twigs flush up against your chosen angle aid.
  6. Take another similar angle aid and lie it on the other side of your “tree”.twig tree with angles on both sides
  7. Following the 2nd angle aid, mark a line on your twigs to be cut.
  8. Using a saw, cut along the mark to shorten your twigs. Cutting twigs down to size - twig tree
  9. Remove and small branches from your twigs.
  10. Make sure your tree branches are positioned how you want them to be as a finished project.
  11. Tie your jute to one end of the bottom twig (the longest one), then staple it in place.  Wrap the jute once and staple in place again.jute wrapped twig tree
  12. Bringing the same piece of jute up to the next rung, wrap it around the twig 2 times, (the jute should be positioned slightly angled in), staple the jute in place.Wrapping twig tree with jute
  13. Continue this process until you get to the top rung.  Finish this angled side of by wrapping the jute a couple of times around the rung and tieing the end off.  Staple in place one last time.
  14. Repeat the jute tieing, stapling, and wrapping process on the others angle of the tree.
  15. Holding you tree up agains the wall, check to make sure it is positioned as you’d like.
    NOTE:  When we put our twig tree on our wall, we noticed we put some of the rungs too far apart so we wrapped the jute one more time around some of the branches.
  16. When you are happy with your tree, lay the twig tree down on the floor again and reienforce with staples again.Twig Tree DIY Almost Finished
  17. Wrap your Twig Christmas Tree with lights.twig tree wrapped with lights
  18. Hang the tree with the staples hidden against the wall. (we simply drilled a hole through the top run of our tree and screwed a large screw through it and into the stud)
To Hang:
  1. Hold the tree up against the wall (it’s heavy), drill a hole through the horizontal center of the top rung.
  2. Find the stud again and screw a 3 inch screw in through the drilled hole in the rung and into the stud.
  3. Have fun decorating!

So this is what we did last year and that time of year is just around the corner!  (can you believe it?!?!?)

Admittedly,  I regret not taking better pictures last year.  I will totally update with better pics once we pull this puppy out of the decorations.

This was such a fun little project for us.  Okay…I’ll be real and tell you that Mark and I didn’t see eye to eye on different aspects of the project, but once it was finished we gave each other a high five and a kiss.  Success!!

diy driftwood twig christmas tree

Travel Trailer, Motorhome, or 5th Wheel ~ Which is Best for Families

When we set out on our full-time RV, we explored all the options for what would be best for our family of 6.  Each particular RV type has pros and cons.

Today I’m sharing what I see as important factors when deciding which of these 3 types of RVs suit a family.

RV Types Best for Families

Travel Trailers

Pros –

  • Economical
  • Lighter-Weight

Cons –

  • Ceilings are Lower
  • Not Well Insulated
  • Smaller Master Bedrooms
  • Minimal Storage

We considered getting a Travel Trailer which is also called a bumper-pull.  The fact that they are less expensive was a draw for us but we decided the loss in space was not worth it.  Looking back, I think we would have been just fine with a travel trailer had we not wintered up North.  (You can order them more insulated but that will drive your cost up.)

Motorhome

Pros –

  • All-in-One Ease of Moving
  • Generator is Usually Included for Boondocking
  • Decent Storage
  • More Seating

Cons –

  • Mechanical Breakdown – Out of Your Home
  • Rarely Come With Bunks
  • More Expensive

When we decided to buy an older RV and undertake a camper remodel, we went with a motorhome.  We love our Winnebago Adventurer and it suits us well.  Since we are a family of 6, we had to get creative with our sleeping arrangements.  I wrote all about our renovations and converting the master bedroom into a bunk room.

5th Wheel

We actually bought a 5th Wheel

Pros –

  • Higher Ceilings
  • Larger Master Bedrooms
  • Much More Storage Throughout

Cons –

  • Winter Energy Costs High
  • More Expensive
  • Less Seating

We actually bought a 5th Wheel and we loved it.  There were so many positives to our 5th Wheel.  In the end, the cost is why we decided to sell it and remodel our motorhome.

So that’s our run-down on RV types.  Hopefully our insight helps you decide what is right for you and your family.

 

7 Tips for Using a Laundromat

Using a communal laundromat has some obvious challenges.  After a year and a half of dealing with the laundry monster via a laundromat, I’ve come away with some tricks up my sleeve.

Tips for Using the Laundromat

Today I’m sharing 7 tips for using a laundromat.

  1. Use a Timer. At times I’ve left laundry in the machines too long after the cycle was done. A timer (or phone reminder) is the perfect solution. That or a sticky note on your machine in case someone is waiting on your machine.
  2. Clean the Machine. This may seem like overkill and it can be, but if a washer is noticeably grimy on top or inside the rim, I wipe it down with a dirty towel that has been soaped up. Towel goes in the wash and my clean clothes don’t get dirtied up when I take them out of the washer.
  3. Avoid Bleach Machines. This is not pleasant but after having a load of darks ruined by a machine, I recommend it. To determine if the last load had bleach in the dispenser, simply smell. Avoid that machine or run your whites through it instead of your darks.
  4. Fight Mold and Mildew. We do our best to let towels dry out between laundry days. At times I just can’t seem to stop the mildew smell from infecting our towels though. Adding 1/2 teaspoon of tea tree oil to the washer when towels are included helps to keep the mildew at bay.
  5. Use a Detergent Pod. I switched over to the pods because I got tired of lugging my big detergent jug to the laundromat. I love them. Now I recognize these pods are more expensive, but I’m no longer using too much detergent and the convenience is pretty sweet.
  6. Use or Make Color Catchers. To keep colors from bleeding on other clothing, I highly recommend Color Catchers. These are also handy when we have 1 1/2 loads of darks and only 1/2 load of whites, (we mix if necessary – I know – that’s a no-no!) You can buy Color Catchers or check out One Good Thing By Jillee and her instructions on how to make them yourself.
  7. Keep Clothes Dry in the Rain. Unfortunately, laundry day doesn’t always fall on sunshiny days. For those days, bagging folded laundry in a garbage bag makes sense.

So those are my tips to tackling the laundromat. Any you care to add?

RV Toilet Paper Alternative – How to Save Money

Today’s post is getting into the nitty gritty of RVing.

Toilet paper.

Special RV toilet paper is quite pricey, so we set out to find an RV toilet paper alternative.

I’m sharing with you a quick and easy test you can do to find out which regular store-bought toilet paper will work for your RV.  This test also works to determine if toilet paper is septic safe.

Toilet Paper Test Save Money on RV or Septic Safe

For the test, I used Member’s Mark 2-ply toilet paper (this is available at Sam’s Club) and Scott Super Soft 1-ply, (I buy ours from Amazon and have NOT seen it in a regular store).

I did a comparative test just to show the difference.

Here is what you need to do.

Toilet Paper Test

  1. Tear away a decent amount of toilet paper, I used 10 squares for each sample.
  2. Place toilet paper inside a quart-sized baggie. Test for Septic RV Safe Toilet Paper
  3. Add 2 cups of water, seal baggie.
  4. Let sit for a couple minutes. In my picture you can see that the Scott toilet paper already breaking up, the Member’s Mark did not.Scott Extra Soft Toilet Paper Qualitymembers mark toilet paper and septic safe test
  5. Shake baggies slightly.
  6. Check for clumping.  Alternative for Septic Safe and RV Toilet Paper Test

If the toilet paper clumps at all, it is not good for a septic system or RV tank.  Can you get away with it for a couple years?  Maybe.  But in the realm of toilet matters, I prefer to play it safe.

As a general rule, 2 ply toilet paper is just not good for either a septic system or an RV toilet.

For months we used the regular Scott single-ply that was rough and felt like tissue paper, it was not comfortable at all.  Then I found Scott Extra Soft Bath Tissue Rolls, 36 Count and it is just a nice as 2 ply. (affiliate link there)

What a difference!!  Hopefully this helps you figure out an RV toilet paper alternative.

The Big Detour

detour-signToday’s post has been difficult for me to formulate.  I’ve pondered this one for over a month now and haven’t figured out exactly how to share this bit of news so I’ll just throw it out there….

We are buying a house and moving out of the RV.

<deep breaths>

Since our RVing lifestyle is a major theme for my little space on the Internet, it’s been a challenge for me to figure out what this move means for the direction of this blog.

3 months ago, if you’d have asked me if we were going to continue RVing I would have said yes.  But circumstances have changed that’s why our family is taking a different route.

Our Reasons

1.  The Move to San Antonio.  The opportunities for Mark in San Antonio are permanent and traveling is not an option.  With what is on the horizon, he would go to work and actually love it!  The opportunity was too great to pass up.

2.  RVing is NOT Desirable in San Antonio.  Our current campground is expensive, (site fee, laundry, & electricity – summer).  Add to that, the fact that it is far from Mark’s work,  living in our RV has become more of a hassle than something we enjoy.  Summer heat will hit in a few months – argh.

4.  We are Debt-Free.  Yes!  This one is huge and it has given us the freedom to move back into a home without a camper payment.

3.  We Miss the Comforts of a Home.  The novelty of living in an RV wore off and there is no reason for us to continue at this point.  That’s blunt but it is honest. We could stay in the RV for the sake of having an RVing blog and bragging rights that we stuck it out.  That is just downright silly though.  Missing the comforts of home isn’t a major reason, but it is an element so it made the list.

Busyness of Life

On our Facebook page, I mentioned that I’m very busy.

Busy…

  • Looking at real estate, which is very hot in San Antonio now.  In fact, 2 houses we put offers on, got away. (we have an offer out on the 3rd house now)
  • Working out at Helotes CrossFit.
  • Finding our Homeschooling routine again after so much transition and business.
  • Embracing motherhood again.  I had neglected my kids, the cooking, and the cleaning because I was so busy.  I rarely made treats for my kids.  I never took them to the park or library.  I’m finding my way back to who I am as an at-home mom.
  • Building new relationships and connecting with old friends.  This is a HUGE priority for us, and that takes time.

The New Lighter Life’s Future?

This little space in cyber-world will be going through transition.  I have several posts to put up about RVing.  I’ll continue to share about this topic as long as I have material that will offer a benefit to you, my faithful readers.

I’d equate this our move back to a traditional home to a detour.  I’m excited for our journey.  The destination is still the same – Abundant Living Through Simple Means.  The path we take to get there is different than what we originally had planned.

I’ll end today’s post with a request…

If you have any RV related questions, please shoot me an email or comment on what you’d like me to post about.

Looking forward to what 2014 brings!

 

Small Kitchen Tools and Equipment

Living in a camper and prepping meals for a family of 6, has been an adventure.  If you’re faced with a small kitchen space, this post will help you not only survive, but thrive in a ridiculously small kitchen.

Today I’m sharing my favorite small kitchen tools and equipment to make that tiny kitchen more workable.

Small Kitchen Tools and Equipment Must Haves

Ikea Butcher Block

I use this multiple times each and every day. If you’re an RVer, your sink likely came with an cutting board insert. Ours came with an insert but it wasn’t a cutting board, so we bought this from IKEA for $10. That’s right $10!

I place this over half the sink and it more than doubles my counter space.

IKEA Butcher Block

Magnetic Knife Strip

Ditch the knife block and save your counter space. As a Fulltime RVer, I have NEVER had a knife fall when we’ve been driving. These nifty strips are strong, convenient and a space-saver.

magnetic-knife-strip

Baskets

Keeping your smaller items contained in baskets is a perfect solution to reduce your cabinet clutter. I’m lucky enough have really narrow and deep cabinets, (note sarcasm).   These baskets not only contain smaller items but allow me slide my pantry goods OUT making them accessible.

Pull Out Kitchen Baskets

Multipurpose Appliances.

I love a good yogurt maker and stand mixer as much as the next person.  However, if your space is limited there are many appliances you can ditch, (and you won’t even feel deprived). Think outside the box and get creative with how you prep your food.

The appliances I currently have:

coffee grinder
coffee maker
crockpot
immersion blender
bread maker
skillet
waffle iron
blendtec blender
toaster

Of my list of appliances the 3 that I’d classify as frivolous and specialty appliances are the waffle iron, bread maker, and toaster. Let’s address those space-wasters and why I’m keeping them.

I love my waffle iron and would like to be buried with it, or cremated…I’m not sure but I don’t want to part with it. Someday I’ll make cookies with it, or hash browns, or waffle bread. Then it will all be worth while and I can tout about how it’s multipurpose.

My bread maker has one foot out the door. I stopped buying bread for the kids and started making my sprouted whole wheat bread again.  I don’t want to fuss with my RV oven so I have the bread maker. It’s history once we replace our microwave with a convection oven/microwave combo. I promise – it’s almost gone.

My toaster is so not necessary, but we can fit it in the cabinet.  We don’t use it often and if we were even more pressed for space, we’d ditch it.

Appliances should pass some sort of test, (my test looks something like this)…

  1. You can fit it comfortably in your small kitchen.
  2. Multipurpose / Multifunction.
  3. Very useful.

My FAVORITE multipurpose appliance is my immersion blender.  I use that baby to blend up black beans for Black Bean Chocolate Chip Cookies, make whipped cream, Tangy Italian Salad Dressing, or my Low Carb High Protein Pancakes (and more odd jobs).

Final thought on this – I highly recommend keeping the appliances you use.

You need to decide which appliances are worth the space they take up in your small kitchen.

Lazy Susans

Lazy Susan for Small Kitchen

These are perfect for smaller cabinets to make sauces and condiments more accessible. Instead of stocking a cabinet full and having a jumbled mess, lazy susans keep everything at hand’s reach with a simple spin.

Collapsible or Nesting

Space is prime real estate and this only makes sense.  Salad spinners, collanders, bowls, measuring cups, even funnels.  There are many collapsible items available.

Collapsible Colander for Small Kitchen

Drying Mat

This little puppy cost all of $4 and it saves space in comparison to a regular metal or plastic drying rack.

If you’re in a tiny kitchen, your standard drying rack gobbles up sink, counter, or cabinet space.  A drying mat serves our purposes well.

Drying Mat - Space Saving for Small Kitchens

 

Cabinet Hooks

My last recommended tool is a simple one, cabinet hooks.

Space Saving Cabinet Hooks

These are so convenient and slip right over the edge of a standard cabinet door. We use ours for hanging our drying rack in the kitchen to dry, (and to hang my purse, and towels in the closets/bathroom).

 

So that is my list of  Small Kitchen Tools & Equipment Must Haves.  If you have any you’d like to recommend, I’d love to hear it!

Our First RV Anniversary

 

One Year RV Anniversary - The Big lessons our family of 6 learned

One year ago, we sold nearly everything that we owned and moved our family of 6 into a 300 square foot RV.  What a trip!  In celebration this monumentous event, I’m writing a letter to One Year Younger Julie.

Dear One Year Younger Julie,

You’re about to have a crazy year in the camper.  There will be challenges and adventures ahead of you.  You’ll be frustrated at times and relish in the simplicity at other times.  I want to give you a little advice to make your year a little less hectic and let you know you’ll learn more about yourself than you ever bargained for.  So listen to me dear Julie

Winter RVing

First of all, let’s talk about winter RVing.  Since you’re crazy and will full time RV this winter in South Dakota, go ahead and make your own heat hose but make sure you buy a shop light IN NOVEMBER to help keep your waterline from freezing.

Buy some slippers and space heaters.  Dress warm while in the camper.  It’ll be chilly.  Winters in an RV are not for the faint at heart, toughen up.  Learn to roll with the punches and EXPECT your water to freeze multiple times.  Oh and when you go see family for Christmas, winterize the camper.  You should never leave your camper during sub-zero temps for more than a day silly girl!

As far as skirting the RV goes, use foam insulation board instead of the more expensive vinyl. It is cheaper and you won’t do another northern winter in the RV to justify the added cost or hassle.

The Grass is Greener Where You Water It

I know there are several reasons why you want to move into an RV.  But one big reason you’ve expressed is because you want to declutter your life. You want less stuff to deal with and you want to simplify.  But hear me out…I’m just a little bit older and wiser than you are right now.

Since you weren’t finding ways to simplify and declutter your life before you moved into the RV, you’re just going to be bogged down while you are IN the RV. In some ways you’re going to have more free time on your hands without having to take care of a yard or a large home.  But in an RV there is still an outside patio to sweep, holding tanks to dump, propane to fill, laundry mat laundry to deal with, weekly grocery shopping, clutter to consistently purge out of your small space, water lines to thaw, and dishes to hand wash multiple times every day.

What I’m trying to say, One Year Younger Julie, is there were things that took up parts of your day in your conventional home.  Those duties will shift to different responsibilities as a Full Time RVer.  You will have less stuff – yes, but simplified is often a state of mind rather than a type of residence.

Relax and Enjoy Your Family

But most of all One Year Younger Julie, I just want to tell you to relax.  You’re going to make mistakes this next year.  Many days will disqualify you from earning The Mother of The Year Award.  Purpose in your mind to draw closer to Jesus, enjoy your family, and be content.

Get off Facebook now and then.  Take time to play with your kids more.  Love your husband, (he’s pretty awesome)!  Spend time with dear friends and family.  Remove the time-wasters from your life.  Don’t try to figure out Twitter.  🙂

Until next year,